First repair blog in a long time! This one was just too juicy to not write about. We brought a vintage Jazzmaster back to what it should look like after all these years.
There was a time when lots of folks were stripping the finish off their 50’s and 60’s Fender guitars – some thinking that they preferred the look of natural wood grain to solid colors, others thinking that the paint itself was kept guitar’s best sounds from shining through. This Jazzmaster was one of those guitars. And while it had a rough go of it, enough evidence was left behind for us to completely restore it to what its original finish would look like today. Most notably, the de-finisher left the neck – with matching Olympic White headstock – completely alone.
The original headstock finish gave us a road map for what the body should look like. But vintage guitar lovers know that the original clear top finish was nitrocellulose lacquer which tends to age over time from the sun’s ultra-violet rays – turning white to creamy yellow, blues to turquoise or green shades, and bright reds to richer wine-colored tones. The finish that hides under hardware and pickguards often retains the original color, unblemished by the sun. The owner asked if we could recreate this effect – using the remnants of original white left in the tailpiece and electronic cavities.
Here’s the guitar as it arrived, with original finish removed. Our first task was to smooth the rough edges and corners that were left when the finish was stripped.
We can’t put wood back that has been removed but we can sand what’s left to more accurate contours.
As you see above, the neck pocket as well as the electronic cavities were never stripped of the original finish. And because they were hidden beneath the pickguard and other parts, the finish beneath didn’t age and yellow the way the headstock did. We used the whitest area as the model for our base color coat and we’ll leave that color below the pickguard (simulated by paper tracings) for a more authentic vintage appearance.
Next we re-leveled the rosewood fretboard and installed all new frets.
Then, of course we distress and relic the finish before reassembling. With the original pickguard and hardware installed, this incredible guitar looks like it would have had nobody ever removed that original finish. It was hard to send this one home!
I have a 65 Jazz Bass with the original Olympic White headstock. The body is already sanded for the most part. About how much would you charge to do the same job as the Jazzmaster?
We’d love to help out. Just sent you a preliminary estimate!
I have a 1961 fender jazzmaster with the classic sunburst finish. I’ve owned it since it was new. The paint is chipping off in a number of places and there are numerous hairline cracks in the finish. It also needs new frets. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t refinish it because that would lower the collector’s value. I’m on the fence about it. What is your opinion and, if I decide to have it refinished and refretted, what would it cost?
Gene, Hopefully you’ve received the email response I sent a while back. I think your question is one worth responding to here for the sake of others. Generally speaking when it comes to vintage guitars – particularly collectable instruments in otherwise good condition, one wants to avoid any non-reverseable repairs including stripping, refinishing, and drilling new holes. Hardware that isn’t working right can often be upgraded with new parts that fit the original “footprint.” But hang onto original parts. In terms of resale value a vintage guitar ideally is completely or mostly original and fully functional so strive to keep it maintained and keep those old parts!